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Soil Spectroscopy: An Alternative to Wet Chemistry for Soil Monitoring

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The soil science community is facing a growing demand of regional, continental, and worldwide databases in order to monitor the status of the soil. However, the availability of such data is very scarce. Cost-effective tools to measure soil properties for large areas (e.g., Europe) are required. Soil spectroscopy has shown to be a fast, cost-effective, environmental-friendly, nondestructive, reproducible, and repeatable analytical technique. The main aim of this paper is to describe the state of the art of soil spectroscopy as well as its potential to facilitating soil monitoring. The factors constraining the application of soil spectroscopy as an alternative to traditional laboratory analyses, together with the limits of the technique, are addressed. The paper also highlights that the widespread use of spectroscopy to monitor the status of the soil should be encouraged by (1) the creation of a standard for the collection of laboratory soil spectra, to promote the sharing of spectral libraries, and (2) the scanning of existing soil archives, reducing the need for costly sampling campaigns. Finally, routine soil analysis using soil spectroscopy would be beneficial for the end users by a reduction in analytical costs, and an increased comparability of results between laboratories. This ambitious project will materialize only through (1) the establishment of local and regional partnerships among existent institutions able to generate the necessary technical competence, and (2) the support of international organizations. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of United Nations and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission are well placed to promote the use of laboratory and field spectrometers for monitoring the state of soils.

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